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What are meta tags on a website?

What are meta tags on a website?

To understand what meta tags are on a website, you need to know what meta data is. Meta data is data that describes other data. So meta tags on a web page describe the web page.  They are hidden bits of information the help describe what a web site is about.

The most common web site meta tags are the title, meta description and meta keywords. At the top of an HTML document, you can add these tags into the website code to describe your page. (You don’t see this information in the browser.) This information will help search engines better understand what your website is about to rank higher in the search engines.

When you do a search in Google, the search results page will show your meta title and description. Here is an example of how Google uses your website meta tags in the search results page.

meta tags in Google SERPS

Besides helping Google understand what your site is about, you also help the user understand so they will hopefully click on your link. Writing clear and descriptive meta title and meta descriptions is very important to for both search engines and potential users. This is your only opportunity to make an impression on the user, so put some thought into your titles and descriptions to entice a user to click on your link.

What about meta keywords?

You may notice I have not mentioned meta keywords. Google does not use meta keywords any more when analyzing a web page to determine how it will rank. In the early days of the Internet, they were used, but have been exploited so badly that they are now disregarded. Some SEO experts say you shouldn’t use them any more, (like the founder of Yoast WordPress SEO plugin). I still do. Not in the context of using them to try to get better SEO rankings, but in terms of meta data and describing my page. I simple include 2 -3 prominent keywords that describe the page. Maybe using synonyms variations or a common typo.

Many clients I work with want me to “put keywords in the page” with the meta keyword tag. SEO simple does not work like this. Writing useful and well written content for your page that uses keywords you want to target in the meta tags, page headings, page content and file names (of the page and images) are the right way to “put keywords in the page”.

Meta Tags in HTML

Basic information for meta title and meta description tags in html:

  1. Meta tags go at the top of an HTML page, nested in the header tags.
    <head>
      <title>This is the title of the page</title>
      <meta name="description" content="Use the keyword phrase you want to target within your meta description. Write this description to entice users, not search engines.">
      <meta name="keywords" content="keyword phrases, separated by commas">
    </head>
  2. Meta titles and meta descriptions should be unique for every page, targeting a specific keyword phrase or idea.
  3. Meta title should be about 60 characters total including spaces.
  4. Meta descriptions should be about 300 characters including spaces. This should be written to tell users about the page and encourage them to click on your link in the search results.

 

If you’re looking for a web developer because you need help adding meta tags, or identifying keywords to target on your pages, contact me for a quote.

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